FORT HOOD — Using a map and compass to find their way, Shoemaker High School Junior ROTC cadets worked together to find specified points on a land navigation course.

About 250 cadets worked in small teams, walking along paved and dirt roads, over hillsides and rocky paths to earn land navigation ribbons.

Besides honing their navigational skills, the off-campus training served to bond the battalion.

“The purpose is for us to get close together,” said cadet battalion commander Dominique Jefferson, a Shoemaker senior. “We have fun doing this.”

Battalion leaders set out 18 points and the cadets were required to find six. Some teams worked together.

“It’s a good challenge,” said Morris Knight, a Shoemaker JROTC instructor. “It reaffirms their basic land navigation skills using compass and map orientation.”

Shoemaker’s large battalion trains together, competes in skills events and goes through inspection. The navigation day on the course at West Fort Hood is a special time of bonding.

“We successfully moved more than 200 cadets from point A to point B,” said Derek Rivera, a Shoemaker senior in charge of operations and training. “It builds team cohesion and teaches land navigation skills. It’s a day of fun.”

Freshman Tayler Crooks said the course offered challenges, but that her team was up to the task of finding their way to the various points.

“It was rough, there were some slippery rocks and we had to help each other,” she said. “We thought we lost our way a few times. We had to backtrack and stop for the group. We never left anyone behind.”

While the navigation exercise was a timed, competitive event, many groups helped each other. In the end, the cadets played football and ate lunch together.

“We had an experienced group and we knew what we were doing,” said Shoemaker junior Jamal Daniel, who led his group through the course.

“We spent a lot of time on a point that wasn’t in play,” he said, explaining a source of confusion. “We teamed up with other groups and helped each other. I like that we can team up and make friends out here.”

“I liked to see the fun on their faces and the bond we formed in the groups,” said Shoemaker senior Cori Andrike, the battalion executive officer.

Andrike said his time in Junior ROTC has been life changing. His grades have improved and he said he has matured and learned to lead and to teach others.

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